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Microsoft Unveils Plans for Web-Based Instant Messaging

Microsoft plans to extend its Office Communicator 2005 instant-messaging client to the Web, the company disclosed, with a server-side component dubbed Office Communicator Web Access.

Anoop Gupta, VP of Microsoft's real-time collaboration group, unveiled the plan during a keynote panel at the Collaboration Technologies Conference in New York (6/19-6/24), characterizing it as "another significant step toward ubiquitous access to rich presence and an integrated communications experience."

Office Communicator (code-named Istanbul) is an integrated communications client designed to enable information workers to communicate in real time. It merges IM, voice, video, telephony and Web conferencing into Microsoft Office by integrating with the Communications Server—similar to the way Outlook plugs into Exchange.

Office Communicator is the preferred front end for Microsoft's Office Live Communications Server 2005 software, and it integrates with the Microsoft Office System applications and enterprise telephony infrastructure.

Using the Web Access component with the server software will allow users to access a company's IM system from any device connected to the Internet, according to Microsoft.

IM now rivals e-mail in its rate of adoption among business users. Analysts at Ovum predict that the numbers of corporate IM users will double this year. But IM is still an immature technology, the analysts observe in a recent report, "Instant Messaging: Making an Impact on the Enterprise." Consequently, organizations are looking to the vendor community—companies such as Microsoft—both for the tools they need to manage IM environments, and for the standards and interoperability technology to link different instant messaging networks.

"Extending the capabilities of Office Communicator to Web clients gives information workers, regardless of location or platform, the ability to immediately locate, contact and collaborate with colleagues in real-time," Gupta said.

Microsoft plans to release a beta of Communicator Web Access in mid-July, and expects to ship the final version before the end of calendar 2005.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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